Add To-Go or Delivery to Boost your Restaurant Marketing

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Coupling to-go or delivery with online or mobile app ordering opens up an entirely new area of restaurant marketing.

The Goldman Sachs 2017 restaurant sector outlook paints a grim picture for the category. According to their statement, the category headwinds are driven primarily by a decrease in consumer discretionary cash flow from 4.4% to 3.9%. Rising and uncertain healthcare costs, as well as rising energy costs, mean that the typical American diner will have fewer occasions to dine out and will end up spending less because they simply have less to spend.

The full-service chains seem to be most at risk due to the combination of rising minimum wages, potentially higher food costs resulting from reductions in free trade and the decrease of consumer discretionary cash. This has the potential to create a perfect storm for the category.

But how can a full-service chain weather all of those challenges and succeed in 2017? Assuming your operations are running efficiently, you should focus on building a robust to-go or delivery business.

Why does a delivery or to-go business help? First, it helps because you can increase your trade area without investing heavily in additional locations and infrastructure. Second, you will be more convenient for customers who feel like they are saving money by dining at home. Third, to-go and delivery orders are measurably higher than comparable in-restaurant checks.

Finally, coupling to-go or delivery with online or mobile app ordering opens up an entirely new area of restaurant marketing. No longer is success measured in just in-restaurant benefits. Now, it’s about true customer convenience.

There are certainly considerations associated with these capabilities such as delivery driver insurance, ensuring food travel, customization of orders, etc. However, given the substantial headwinds outlined above, the upside is well worth the investment and could be what puts full-service chains in a position to win against fast food.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 18+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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The Importance of Search in Restaurant Marketing

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How to make the best of your overall search strategy

Google processes over 3.5 billion search queries worldwide every day. These range anywhere from questions about health and history to searches for the latest viral cat video. In large part due to expanding technology, we now live in a world where we constantly “need to know,” “want to go to,” and “want to buy” – and have the ability to do so from our fingertips.

It’s important to have a strong grasp on both your organic and paid search strategy to ensure you are helping your customers find the information they need then ultimately getting them into your restaurant.

Keep Your Local Listings Up To Date

With the growing usage of mobile devices and the ease with which users can search on smartphones, local listings play a critical role for restaurants. Nearly 20% of all searches come from a mobile device and have location intent. It can be assumed that this figure is even higher for the restaurant industry. Users need to know your hours, address, phone number and other information before they can even make their way to your restaurant.

Another local listing factor that can often be overlooked is your restaurant’s reviews. A staggering 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and your online reviews have an impact on your restaurant’s organic search rankings.

Luckily, there are a number of tools out there to help you wrangle all of the information about your restaurant(s) across a variety of search engines and websites. If you’re strapped for time, Google My Business is a great resource that will allow you to get pertinent information correctly conveyed to consumers searching specifically in Google.

Be There for Hand Raisers

If someone is searching for your restaurant, they likely have intent to visit and should be at the top of the list of people you want to be speaking to. Search ads give you the opportunity to not only speak to that consumer but also drive them to the site content you’ve designated to be most important.

You can also reach consumers looking for generic terms like “restaurants near me” in an effort to gain market share from your competitors by appearing at the top of the search listings (and by spending some money to get there).

The “Need it Now” Phenomenon

As I mentioned before, we live in a world where we need to know everything right this minute. Half of local smartphone searchers will visit a store within a day of making that search. In the restaurant industry, Google sees nearly 50% of restaurant searches happening within an hour of the user going there.

The search process doesn’t stop once a decision has been made, as Millennials especially are known for looking up information about their food while they are in the restaurant.

All of these facts should be making you think more about your search presence in the restaurant vertical, and if you’re really providing the value that consumers are looking for and could be getting from your competitors.

About Gina Lee De Freitas 

Gina Lee De Freitas has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
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How Convenience Stores are Winning at Restaurant Marketing

Yellow and Black Gasoline Station Convenience StoreQSRs, beware. C-stores are coming for your consumers.

More and more often, hungry consumers – particularly young Millennials and Gen Z’ers – are visiting convenience stores instead of fast food restaurants to satisfy their cravings. According to NPD, 10% of quick-service visits are claimed by convenience stores. This may not be surprising to anyone from New Jersey or Pennsylvania, where Wawa has been a beloved staple for years. But, everyone else may be feeling a bit bewildered. Let’s take a look at what c-stores are doing to attract and pull consumers away from your fast food restaurant.

They offer a wide variety of options

7-Eleven, Sheetz, Wawa and Circle K offer a surprising variety of prepared and fresh food. Hot dogs, subs, paninis, salads, pizza, breakfast items – it’s all there. Pair that with the typical convenience store lineup of chips, candy and beverages, and what more could a Gen Z’er ask for?

Their prices are lower

MSN reports that the average food purchase at a convenience store costs $2 less than at a QSR. At the same time, fast food restaurants, faced with supply pricing pressures, have started to reconsider their dollar menus.

They encourage loyalty

When people are willing to go out of their way to get a sandwich from a convenience store, you know the c-store must be doing something right. C-stores have a great start towards building long-term loyalty simply because they have done so well with attracting young consumers. Millennials and Gen Z’ers have long lives of spending still ahead of them!

C-stores have also found innovative ways to leverage loyalty programs, such as RaceTrac’s app-based rewards program. Customers scan purchases to earn, track and redeem points, which they can then trade in for rewards that they select themselves. Rewards span RaceTrac’s variety of food offerings – think frozen yogurt, hot dogs, breakfast sandwiches and more.

They’re innovating in ways that resonate with their consumers

Sheetz recently opened a “food-first” c-store on West Virginia University’s campus. Their goal is ultimately to develop and roll out a café-like concept, and the WVU Sheetz location is serving as a testing ground. Meanwhile, students and locals alike get to enjoy a restaurant-like atmosphere with seating and an open view into the food preparation area. There are outlets and USB ports so that customers can stay a while with their laptops or devices. It truly is an appealing place to spend time.

What does all this mean for you? Well, if you are a marketer at a QSR and you haven’t started to look at convenience stores as key competitors, now’s the time. Whether it’s making updates to your loyalty program or finding ways to innovate within your menu or physical space, it would be wise to find ways to bring that younger customer base back through your doors.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 18+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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Restaurant Marketing: 3 Technologies Restaurants Should Be Running Toward, Not From

augmented .jpgHow restaurant marketers can get in on the technology revolution.

Fresh from CES, our minds are future-focused with dreams of driverless cars and robot house-helpers. While consumer goods are setting the new watermark for modernization, the restaurant industry is lagging behind. There isn’t enough discussion around how the movement in artificial intelligence can impact the future of the dining industry. Restaurant marketing innovation has typically been focused on food and ingredient advances. That thinking is suddenly too narrow as consumer behaviors and expectations are shifting for everything, including dining experiences. It’s time for restaurant marketers to make some bets on technology.

Here are some thought-starters on how restaurant marketers can get in on the technology revolution:

Artificial intelligence
Robots are here. They’re smart, they are fast, and they are reliable. What about beta testing some robots for bussing tables Or how about lending an extra hand to the waiters with things like water refreshes or that extra ketchup request? The pure novelty of getting smart robots inside the restaurant is going to attract current and new diners alike. And, as is always the case with technology, the investment required for the robots is only going to get cheaper over time, ultimately leading to a competitive advantage.

Virtual reality
Until now, VR has been mostly reserved for the entertainment industry, but why should they get to have all the fun?  Do you source your ingredients from Italy? What if you could allow your guests to experience what it’s like to be in Italy and to get a small taste of how the country’s culture inspires what they are going to eat. Or, how about giving your guests the ability to experience the kitchen and see the chefs hard at work?

Augmented reality
Close cousin to VR, and the backbone of the Pokémon Go phenomenon of 2016 and Snapchat filters, AR is here to stay and restaurant marketers should embrace this new technology. Are you a health-focused restaurant brand? What about an app that allows diners to view their food and see all of the ingredients with an AR overlay? How about the ability to play games while in the restaurant and earn points for playing, therefore increasing frequency of visits?

Restaurant marketers must get in on the technology bandwagon to stay relevant in consumers’ minds. The approach you take to integrating new innovations depends on your business strategy, but if you are not considering AI as a focus, may already be behind!

About Gina Lee De Freitas

Gina Lee has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
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